Government inspectorate Ofsted is to combine its procedures for local authority children’s services and introduce stricter inspection criteria from November.
The new ‘Single Inspection Framework’ will combine inspection procedures for care services, care leaver services and adoption and fostering services, with effect from November.
In addition, gradings will be stricter. The currently applied ‘adequate’ rating will no longer be used, replaced with a new ‘requires improvement’ rating.
Children’s services will be rated in three key areas:
*The experience and progress of children who need help and protection.
*The experience and progress of looked after children, and their success in finding permanent homes and families
*The organisation’s management and leadership.
If any of these key areas are judged inadequate, the organisation under inspection will receive an overall rating of ‘inadequate’.
Debbie Jones is the National Director for Social Care at Ofsted. She said:
“While I understand the pressures and recognise that the social care landscape is changing, I believe that this new framework has children and young people and the quality of professional practice at its heart.”
“It is our ambition to establish “good” as the new minimum and for this to become the agreed standard for all services for children and young people. It is right to introduce the harder test asking what difference we are all making and I am impressed with the extent to which the new framework sets this out.”
Mark Rogers is Chief Executive of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and also Lead on Children’s Services for the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE), He described the new framework as ‘simplistic’.
“Only good is good enough when it comes to delivery of children’s services. Excellence must be the ambition when it comes to the outcomes for children and young people. Unfortunately, Ofsted’s efforts to deliver a quality independent single inspection framework fall short of expectations and still require improvement.
Meanwhile, Andrew Webb, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) said Ofsted’s use of graded judgements could be misleading:
“Every director of children services wants to ensure a safe and high quality service is provided by all partners to protect and support children, young people and their families. The universal nature of the Single Inspection Framework is welcomed but we fundamentally disagree with the use of graded judgments. Graded judgments can, and do, hide a multitude of strengths and weaknesses, and there is no certainty that two local authorities with the same judgments are providing the same quality of service and achieving the same outcomes for children in their area.”